The tale of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has been a strange one on "The Walking Dead." From his brutal and disturbing introduction tat killed Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) to his breaking down of Daryl (Norman Reedus), he's been a tough character to figure out.
After the latest episode, "Service," his motivations -- beyond building his own base of power and supplies -- has become clear. Negan wants to create another Negan and his chosen one, seemingly, is Rick (Andrew Lincoln).
In the Season 7 premiere, Negan broke Rick and made him realize who's in control. Now, after tearing him down, it's as if Negan is rebuilding him in his own image.
It all started when the maniacal leader of the Saviors arrived in Alexandria to collect his group's first bounty from Rick and the survivors. His first act was to hand over Lucille to Rick, having him hold onto the baseball bat for the Saviors' entire visit.
Having Rick spend a day holding the instrument of his friends' deaths is a major mind game for Negan to play. Making Rick shadow him throughout the town and intimidate his own people took things a step even further.
With Rick utterly destroyed by the Season 7 premiere showdown, he's a lot easier to mold. As he admitted during "Service," he's not in charge anymore. He's ceded total control to Negan and seems almost relieved not to be the one people count on to make decisions.
The mental torture Negan is putting him through is changing him, though. It was clear as day once Negan was gone and Rick threatened to pummel one of his own people for hiding guns. This is not something the Rick of old would have done.
He's no longer the alpha of his group. Instead, he's falling into the role of Negan's errand boy. The question is how influenced he will be by his new leader. Thus far, Rick is falling in line perfectly to be yet another one of Negan's soldiers.
It's a major contrast to how Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and the Kingdom deal with the Saviors. To them the group is an unavoidable hassle, at most. They deal with the Saviors because they have no choice, but they don't become them.
When the eventual war between the Kingdom and the Saviors happens -- because you know it's bound to happen eventually -- whose side will Rick be on?